p>Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined fourth-graders from the Julius E. Sprauve Elementary School on Wednesday to announce a grant of $25,000 for the Every Kid in a Park program in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Jewell, who arrived on St. Thomas for her first visit to the territory since taking the reins at the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2013, made the announcement surrounded by the students at the Cinnamon Bay Archeology Lab in Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.
The Every Kid in a Park initiative is part of an overall strategy to connect young people to the outdoors, according to a news release from Interior. The program allows fourth-graders from across the nation to go online to www.everykidinapark.gov and obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide – including in the USVI – for an entire year, starting Sept. 1, 2015.
Jewell, Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent Brion FitzGerald, and Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina presented the students with their Every Kid in a Park passes. The secretary and the students also participated in educational activities, including a "Touch the Past" field trip that incorporated a hike through the Cinnamon Bay Nature Loop and a hands-on discovery activity to sort artifacts found in the park that help tell the story of the people of the Virgin Islands.
The secretary also announced a $25,000 grant to cover transportation costs for the 600 fourth-graders in USVI public schools on St. Thomas and St. John to enjoy a day in the park at any USVI National Park location.
“The students visiting Virgin Islands National Park today with their Every Kid in a Park passes learned about local natural resources, history and culture while enjoying one of our nation’s most beautiful aquatic and coral reef parks,” Jewell said.
“Using our public lands as living classrooms is one of the ways the Obama Administration is working to ensure all students – including USVI students – have the tools they need to understand the importance of the natural and cultural resources in their own backyard and beyond.”
The $25,000 grant provided by Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs through its Technical Assistance Program will be directed to the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park over the next year to launch the Every Kid in a Park Program on the USVI. Programming will take place in Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Island Coral Reef National Monument locations on St. John and on Hassel Island in Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas.
The funding will cover the logistical support required to provide each fourth-grader a one-time trip to a park or monument location of their choice, including boat transportation to Hassel Islands as well as taxi and ferry charges related to St. John and St. Thomas excursions.